“Tom, your Americano is ready at the bar.” That’s what the Starbucks barista said to me the other morning. Every time that happens I reconsider how uniquely personal, special and powerful a name is.
Have you had the same thought? At times it’s a terrific connection person to person. Others times, well, it can get messy. Take for example Starbucks’ policy to put your name on your order and then let you know it’s ready by calling out your name.
I always give my name to the Starbucks folks as “Thomas.” It’s my last name, not my first name. Hoots does that, too. It’s our way. Sometimes they get it as “Thomas.” Sometimes “Tomas” or frequently, I’m “Tom” (or ”Thom”).
I don’t like giving them my first name for some reason.
Turns out that this whole corporate policy to request a name isn’t as straightforward as you’d expect. Candidly, requesting a name for the order and then using it in conversation, as if they know me, is off-putting.
Do you know what I mean?
You might have heard that sometimes and in some Starbucks they intentionally garble your name. I’ve not experienced what some have called the “frothy cycle of control.” That’s where they purposefully and possibly strategically and “creatively” misspelled your name so you will push them out on Social Media…and hey, tell your friends about this cool coffee company who wrote “Steven with a V” on your coffee cup as your name.
Look. I get needing to be cute and have fun.
But it can get out of hand.
Not long ago in a London Starbucks, a woman received her drink with “Hippo” scrawled in Sharpie on her cup. Ummm…not cool.
Or the man whosE cup had “Isis” written on it.
Or the woman whose Starbucks’ cup announced to the world “Anus” in big black letters.
Not exactly a gold-standard customer service moment, huh?
Of course Starbucks is working with the problematic locations. Can you can imagine the PowerPoint deck HR put together?
“Do not write ‘Anus’ on a customer’s cup.”
It’s fun to consider the new section of 3-hole-punched documentation in the store’s operation binder that covers what not to write on a cup. Oh man, what a corporate-speak moment.
This problem, like most problems involving customer service, doesn’t have much to do with policy, procedure or corporate rules.
It comes down to seeing that other person as a person. They’re not a “customer” they are a fellow human. PowerPoint won’t solve it. Rules won’t solve it. Seeing a human on the other side is what solves it.
It doesn’t matter what your company does. If you’re selling hot black caffeinated beverages. Or pushing air conditioners or diamonds. Whatever.
If your people can’t see customers as real, live humans with hopes, dreams, disappointments and struggles you’ll never “do” customer service in a way that lifts your business.
No one would label someone they respect as “Hippo” or “Anus.” Right? Tell me I’m right about that.
What if the press about Starbucks’ “name” problem was because baristas were writing aspirational or poetic phrases on the cups? It’s a Monday morning and you’re rolling in for your hot cup of caffeine and your cup says, “Exceeds Expectations!” or “Genius!” or “Sharp Dressed Man” or “Kicking Butts Today.” That’s a different “customer service” experience.
What could you do today that reminds your customers that you care about them as people, not just as a credit card with enough headroom to make the bank happy?
Customers are people. And you have to make sure your people connect with them at a people level. It’s not customer service. It’s humans helping humans.
You can shift the focus from nebulous “customer service” to a focus on people interacting with people. Go out and kick some butt today, you sharp-dressed Rockstar!
I’d love to know what you think. Here’s how that works: just email me at sthomas AT wizardofads DOT com. That’ll reach me.
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